Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Best Movies for African American History Month

February is African American History Month. I know I'm a bit late to the game, but there are some good movies out there with African American actors/actresses. 

I have not seen all of these, so I am taking the recommendations of other people on some of them. The descriptions are from IMDB, Ted Baehr or online.

What movies can you think of that should be added to the list?

The Gabby Douglas Story

The story of the international gymnastics phenomenon who overcame overwhelming odds to become the first African American ever to be named Individual All-Around Champion in the artistic gymnastics at the Olympic Games.

The Preacher's Wife

Reverend Henry Biggs finds that his marriage is flagging due to his constant absence caring for the deprived neighborhood they live in. On top of all this, his church is coming under threat from a property developer. In desperation, Biggs prays for help, and it arrives in the form of an angel named Dudley. My kids like this movie because of the the little boy and his friend who finds his happily ever after with the Biggs family.

Remember the Titans

Based on a true story, Titans depicts the forced integration of an all black high school with an all white school and its impact on football in 1971 Alexandria, Virginia. Faced with the need to unify their team, two coaches, one of them played by Denzel Washington, must help the team to learn that the real victory lies in changed hearts.

Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored

Chronicles the early life of its author Clifton Taulbert. Clifton is encouraged by the Christian faith, love and kinship of his tightly knit "colored" community to overcome the racial intolerance prevalent in the deep South of the 1950s and 60's. 


42 tells what happens when the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team signed the first black player in the Major Leagues, Jackie Robinson, in 1947. 42 is an inspirational, superb movie showing how the Christian faith of both Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson helped end racism in professional baseball. However, there is a fair amount of foul language and some racial epithets, so caution is advised, especially for children.

Driving Miss Daisy

Over 25 year, as the American South changes profoundly, the friendship between a highly independent, eccentric Jewish matron and the stalwart and very patient black widower.

The Lilies of the Field

This wonderful family movie teaches the Gospel in a winsome, entertaining way that’s unsurpassed by most other movies. In the story, a group of German nuns transplanted to Southwest America convince a young black man to help them build a local church. In the meantime, the young man teaches the nuns the joys of Pentecostal Protestant worship focused on Jesus and His Gospel. Both Jesus and the local church are lifted up.

Akeelah and the Bee

Akeelah, an 11-year-old living in South Los Angeles, discovers she has a talent for spellin, which she hopes will take her to the National Spelling Bee. Despite her mother's objection, Akeelah doesn't give up on her goal. She finds help in the form of a mysterious teacher, and along with overwhelming support from her community, Akeelah might just have what it takes to make her dreams come true.

The Princess and the Frog

With a modern twist on a classic tale, this animated comedy is set in the great city of New Orleans. Featuring a beautiful girl named Tiana, a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical bayous of Louisiana.

The Color of Friendship

A TV-G rated television film, is a heartening tale of racial tolerance with a very interesting twist. An African American US congressman with an interest in South African politics invites what he thinks is a black South African child into his family home for the summer. However Mahree Bok, the daughter of a South African policeman, is in fact white and it takes a lot of courage for both sides to accept the other. By the time she has to go home, however, Mahree has become an important part of the family and best friends with the Congressman's daughter, Piper. 

Annie (2014 version)

Ever since her parents left her as a baby, Annie has led a hard-knock life with her calculating foster mother. All that changes when mayoral candidate Will Stacks takes her in on the recommendation of his advisers. Stacks believes that he's Annie's guardian angel, but the plucky youngster's confidence and sunny outlook may mean that Annie will save Will instead.

These are all that come to mind. Leave a comment if you have thoughts on these movies or can add any to the list.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Review: City of Ember

I’ve read some young adult novels were written several years ago.  One of them was City of Ember, written in 2003. Previously, I’d only seen the movie, and before I read the book, I thought it was a good movie. Reading the book has made me realize how lacking the movie is. This book is for a younger age group than Hunger Games, Divergent or any of those. It’s kind of like a starter dystopian book for preteens.

Ember is an underground city that was designed to keep the remnants of humanity safe and isolated after the regular world was destroyed. It was only intended for the occupants to live in it for 200 years and then be released. Only the instructions aren’t passed down the way they are supposed to be, and the release doesn’t happen.
Lina and Doon discover damaged instructions written by the builders of Ember and begin a scavenger hunt of clues to break the code. Like many other dystopian books, children are assigned jobs at a certain age, in this case by drawing a slip of paper with a job written on it. Some jobs are good, others not so much. Lina and Doon both draw jobs they don’t want, but a simple trade of jobs benefits them both and put them in better positions to find out the key to reaching the surface.

It is always night in the city of Ember. But there is no moon, no stars. The only light during the regular twelve hours of "day" comes from floodlamps that cast a yellowish glow over the streets of the city. Beyond are the pitch-black Unknown Regions, which no one has ever explored because an understanding of fire and electricity has been lost, and with it the idea of a Moveable Light. "Besides," they tell each other, "there is nowhere but here" Among the many other things the people of Ember have forgotten is their past and a direction for their future. For 250 years they have lived pleasantly, because there has been plenty of everything in the vast storerooms. But now there are more and more empty shelves--and more and more times when the lights flicker and go out, leaving them in terrifying blackness for long minutes. What will happen when the generator finally fails?

Twelve-year-old Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet seem to be the only people who are worried. They have just been assigned their life jobs--Lina as a messenger, which leads her to knowledge of some unsettling secrets, and Doon as a Pipeworker, repairing the plumbing in the tunnels under the city where a river roars through the darkness. But when Lina finds a very old paper with enigmatic "Instructions for Egress," they use the advantages of their jobs to begin to puzzle out the frightening and dangerous way to the city of light of which Lina has dreamed. As they set out on their mission, the haunting setting and breathless action of this stunning first novel will have teens clamoring for a sequel. (There are now three more books in the series)

My random and rambling thoughts:
There are differences between the book and the movie. In fact, the only similarities are the assignment of jobs, the poor condition of Ember and the fact that they get out.
In the movie, the order of events are changed.  People’s roles and stories are changed and the way Lina and Doon escape.

In the book, there is a lot of plot that has to do with the mayor taking the resources, Lina and Doon reporting him to the guards and then being wanted for spreading vicious rumors. None of this happens in the movie.

In the movie, the instructions act more like a map while in the book a lot more time is spend following clues and trying to decipher the clues. The movie adds a glass plate used as a key to help get out is added.

The role of the fathers are totally different in the book and movie. In the book, neither Doon nor Lina’s fathers are involved in the escape from Ember, but in the movie, Lina’s father thought the way out was the river and drown trying to get out. Doon finds out his father was working with Lina’s, and Doon tells his father about the instructions.
The weirdest difference is the inclusion of a giant mole in the movie. It roams the pipes, and is responsible for the mayor’s demise.

As far as the escape from Ember, there are too many differences to even go into. 
Overall I think the movie is a very shallow portrayal of the book. It’s worth the time to read it to get more of the story, deeper insights into Ember, its citizens, the mayor and the main characters Lina and Doon.  The way they figure out the exit and leave the city are much more fulfilling.

This book is appropriate for preteens.  Teens may be somewhat bored, but they may also find it an easy, quick read.

Here is what Plugged In Online says:


Two hundred years.
That's how long the remnants of humanity have lived deep underground after an unspecified apocalypse rendered Earth's surface unlivable. For generations, the citizens of the city known as Ember have depended upon a massive generator (powered by an underground river) to keep their beloved subterranean suburb humming.
Now, inexplicably, the great generator is failing. Power outages—accompanied by terrible blackness—are getting longer. Stockpiles of food that have sustained Ember for two centuries seem to be running low.
But the majority of Ember's citizenry stubbornly refuses to believe that life as they've always known it might be coming to an end. Chief among the skeptics is Ember's portly mayor, who calmly establishes a task force to look into these interruptions in the status quo.
Doon Harrow, the son of an inventor, believes he can repair the generator, if only he can get access to it. But the really bright thread of this story emerges from the weave when Lina Mayfleet's preschool-age sister, Poppy, discovers a mysterious box in the closet of their home ... a box apparently left behind by an ancestor who was also the city's seventh mayor. Lina's granny (with whom she lives) faintly recalls that the box was important. But she can't remember why.
Doon's path crosses Lina's on Assignment Day—the day teens graduate from school to adult jobs in the city. And as Ember's power outages grow longer, Doon and Lina race against time to decipher confusing clues in an ever-deepening mystery. Hidden tunnels. Cryptic instructions. Monstrous creatures lurking in the shadows.
Piece by piece, the picture becomes clear: Ember wasn't designed to be a permanent home for humanity, only a temporary shelter. The people must return to the surface.
But someone, it seems, doesn't want them to get there.

City of Ember showcases the values of hard work, family and pursuing the truth even if others discourage you.
Personal career plans don't play well in a society built around sheer survival. And in Ember, adults are randomly assigned lifetime occupations. Despite that, most of Ember's citizenry admirably shoulder their responsibilities. Pipe fitters stop leaks. Electricians tend to the power grid. Greenhouse keepers ensure production of fresh food to complement stored canned goods. And so on.
Doon's father, Loris, encourages the virtues of hard work and perseverance. Loris tells Doon that he has little control over life circumstances ("What you get, you get"), but that his response to those circumstances is what really matters ("What you do with what you get is more the point").
Both Doon and Lina come from loving, if fractured, families. Lina lives with and cares for her elderly granny. (We learn that her parents were killed years before in an accident.) And Lina also tends to the needs of her younger sister. In essence, she's assuming adult responsibilities even before she graduates into the adult world of Ember, putting the needs of her family before her own. When Granny quietly passes away following a respiratory illness (we see her in her bed when she doesn't wake up), Lina and Poppy go to live with a kindhearted family friend named Mrs. Murdo.
As Doon and Lina inch closer to uncovering the secret of Ember's builders—and the escape plan they engineered—the teens repeatedly come to each other's rescue in moments of peril. Several other characters, including a greenhouse custodian and an aging pipeworks laborer, also place their lives on the line in the service of the quest for the truth.
[Spoiler Warning] Loris initially discourages Doon from trying to find an escape from the city. But we learn that Loris is doing so because a similar venture took the lives of several of his friends when he was much younger. Eventually Loris changes his mind, though, and encourages his son to continue pursuing the quest that he abandoned himself.
Lina discovers that an acquaintance her age has been stealing food in her role as a warehouse steward. Though the young thief tries to rationalize her behavior by saying there's so little food remaining that it doesn't matter, Lina tells her that what she's doing is still wrong.


City of Ember is a peculiar movie. As post-apocalyptic action flicks go, it has remarkably few content concerns. The two scenes with the mutated mole are the worst of it, along with some mild fisticuffs and moments of suspense. It's a rare film these days, even among those labeled as "family friendly," that has so few problems. So it would seem that Walden Media continues its commitment to bringing enjoyable, restrained stories to the big screen.
Digging a bit deeper, though, there may be a bit more going on here. On the surface, City of Ember is an engaging story about two teens whose determination to find the truth and challenge the status quo ends up saving humanity. And the consistent theme of moving from darkness to light could even be interpreted as having spiritually meaningful undertones.
On the other hand, the film arguably suggests that neither organized religion nor politics will provide the solutions that society desperately needs. For that matter, adults generally seem unwilling to consider new ways of looking at the world or solving problems. While it would be a stretch to call these messages subversive, neither the "spiritually faithful" nor public leaders tasked with shepherding the city garner much praise here. The former are hopelessly untethered from reality, while the latter are too crooked to be trusted. In the end, Doon and Lina can only trust themselves—a message that's both deeply humanist and pretty pessimistic at the same time.
Speaking of pessimism, consider for a moment City of Ember's setting: We never know exactly why humans were forced underground, whether the catalyst was global ecological disaster or perhaps a nuclear war. All we're told is that the scientists believed it would take 200 years before the earth would be habitable again. "On the day the world ended," a voiceover tells us, "The fate of mankind was carried in a small metal box."
Stories about the end of the world are nothing new, of course. But not so very long ago, they were aimed primarily at older audiences. In her article "Unhappily Ever After," Newsweek columnist Karen Springen writes, "Once upon a time, doomsday stories—War of the WorldsPlanet of the Apes—were adults-only fare. Today one of the hottest segments of children's literature is about surviving the end of the world."
And, indeed, City of Ember is based on a bestselling children's book of the same name.
"We have more ways of ending the world than we had before," says Jeanne DuPrau, who wrote the book. "These are big, hard truths that are facing kids, and they need to know these things."
Whether they need to know these things or not is still debatable, of course. But the fact that they do indeed stumble upon them is incontestable. And families are going to have to individually grapple with how a film like City of Ember fits into that not-always-slow-enough growing up process. If it does fit, it should certainly be used to spark conversation and learning, not just serve as mindless entertainment. But that path is opened up in this case—far more than it normally is when it comes to movies—by the aforementioned restraint shown by the film's makers

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Book Series

This cartoon is so true.

For me, at least. I love a good stand alone book, but I also like bonding with characters through a book series. In fact, I can be pretty down when I finish the series. There are some exception. Like some of the newer trilogies where each books gets worse in my opinion.

What about you? Stand alone books or series?

What's your favorite series?

YA authors--are you writing a series or stand alone books?

Friday, February 19, 2016


Recently I took a PowerPoint class at our local library. I made a mock up PowerPoint for a teen novel I've written (that isn't yet published) as my follow up project. I don't know how to post it as an actual PowerPoint, so I'm posting it as photos below.

I welcome helpful suggestions.

The "coming soon" part is wishful thinking :)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Escape Manor Game

A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to do something with our older kids. So I booked my husband, myself and four of our children to do an Escape Game. It's called "The Attic."
Here's the description:

A long time ago a young lady and a gentleman fell madly in love, and they made plans to be married.  On the day of the wedding, however, the young gentleman was nowhere to be found.  The young bride to be was never able to move passed that day, and everyday for the rest of her life she would retreat into the attic wearing her wedding dress to surround herself with things that reminded her of her long lost love.  The Attic was her sanctuary, but after a while it became her cage.  Finally, on the day of her death she locked herself in the attic, and her soul never escaped.  It is your responsibility to follow the clues, and help free her lost soul!

Here are some pictures taken with my phone before we went in.
(You can't take pictures in the room.)
This is the lobby

Jessica signing the waiver. 


The guy who works there explaining how it works. You are locked in a room where you look for clues for how to get out. He gave us the clipboard he was holding to write down notes. 

They were really ready to go.

 We went into the room, and the guy locked the door and started the one-hour timer. There were lots of objects around the room. Some of them had numbers and letter on them. Together they gave us the clues to open locked boxes with other clues. It was a bit complicated because there were multiple codes to break, and the guy gave us some clues on a monitor to help us when we got stuck.

When we escaped that room, we were in yet another room! That one had its only set of clues, but less complicated. So we were able to get out  with six minutes to spare!

Has anyone else done an Escape game?
We plan to do a different one for Jasmine's sixteenth birthday. (She is turning 15 soon).

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Favorite Book Quotes

We've talked about YA novels in past posts, and I've written reviews of some of the ones I've read this year. I've interviewed a few YA authors also. One thing about YA novels is that some of them are full of great quotes. Who could forget Augusts' "I'm on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend" or "That's the thing about pain...It demands to be felt" from The Fault in Our Stars

Or “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another" and "One choice can transform you" from Divergent.

And of course you can't forget the most popular quote from The Hunger Games:

Some of my favorite quotes are from the Chronicles of Narnia.

I've written a YA novel that I hope will be published in the near future. Here are a few quotes from my main characters.

“I’m a runner, not a fighter. All I’ve ever been good at is running.  Running from the visions, from the things that haunt me. Running from the things I can’t beat or change.” Kia 

“I don’t have the answers, but God does. You and me? We have things that can hold us back or we can embrace who we’re meant to be. Stop running from what you can’t change and run toward who you’re meant to be.” Thorn

"Funny how family can feel like strangers and friends can become family." Kia

What are your favorite book quotes? Share them in the comments section along with the book they're from. If you're an author, what are your favorite quotes from your own book?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Avoid Falling Victim to The Knock Out Game and other Assaults

When watching or reading the news, it becomes obvious that life isn't always safe. On Friday I have a class that talks about awareness and avoiding being a victim. Today they talked about the fact that the Knock Out Game is still happening around the country. Thing is, it's not a game, it's an assault. It's where a group of teens or college aged kids target an unsuspecting victim and knock him or her out with one blow. The two things that are pretty consistent about it is that the attackers are always in a group. There is no glory or credit given if the act isn't witnessed and videoed. And the victim is always alone and unaware of the impending attack.

The video below is long, but it's worth watching. They have some good strategies for not being a victim. It's about the Knock Out Game, but might be useful in other situations.

So the thing is to not be an unaware victim. Always be aware of your surroundings. That means looking around you, not down at a phone. Avoid isolated places, including alleys, parking lots when stores are closed and anywhere else not lit or well populated.

Other assaults can happen even when others are around. Date rape is a big problem on college campuses especially. So if you are going to "party" or go out with someone you don't know well, be smart.
Let someone know where you are going.
Have your cell phone with you and keep it charged.
Don't go out alone with someone you don't know well. Go on a group date or to a group activity.
Set your boundaries and let your date know what they are. If he's only after one thing, he needs to know that's not on the menu.
If you're at a party or out and your date starts getting insistent or won't take no for an answer, end the date.
Never accept an open drink or drink from the punch bowl at a party unless you know and trust everyone there. If you set your drink down and it's out of your sight, dump it out. Hold it the whole time you are drinking it. If you go to the bathroom, take it with or get a new unopened one.
Trust your gut feeling. If things don't feel right, err on the side of caution. Go home.
Avoid people and places that don't make you feel safe.
Don't act like a victim. Yell "Get back" and leave if possible.

If you are out alone at night, you are a target for many kinds of assaults. So be aware of your surroundings and be smart.
Park under a light.
Avoid having your hands full so you're defenseless or an easy target.
Walk with purpose--head up. focus on your destination. Have your keys out and ready.
Get in the car and lock the door.
You can't always see your attacker. He may be under the car or crouched on the other side. Be aware.
Do not get in a car even if ordered to do so. Run, Hide, Scream "stranger" or "fire" or anything to get attention. If you get in a car with the assailant, nothing good is going to happen.
If someone demands your purse or wallet, throw it one way as far as you can and run the other.

Use common sense
Be award your surroundings
Be in charge of youself
Stay safe
Help others stay safe

Have you ever been a victim? (If you didn't get help then, get it now. )
What safety precautions do you take?
What advice do you have for others? 
How can a person move on after being the victim of a violent crime?

How to Help Protect Others from Rape and Assault
Tips for Avoiding Assault
National Sexual Assault Hotline

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Jasmine and I first watched the movie The Fault in Our Stars. Then we listened to it on CD.

The basic story:

"Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.

Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 17-year-old with cancer, reluctantly visits a cancer support group at her mother's insistence. Her trusty portable oxygen tank goes with her. At the meeting she meets August Waters, a teen with one leg and a unique outlook on life. The two hit it off, and Hazel shares her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction with Augustus. He in turn gives her his favorite book to read--The Price of Dawn, a shoot 'em up book with a high body count.

Hazel shares that An Imperial Afflication is the only novel about cancer that describes her own life. She is frustrating that author, Peter Van Houten, ends the novel mid sentence denying the readers closure.

Since she used up the special wish granted to terminally ill children to visit Disney when she was 12, Augustus uses his wish to take himself  and Hazel to Amsterdam to meet the author of An Imperial Afflication. When the meeting is less than stellar, Augustus refuses to let Hazel think she wasted his trip.

Once home, things take a turn for the worse for Augustus whose cancer has returned. And we find out, as Augusts says, "Life in not a wish granting factory." 

There are a lot of differences between the movie and the book. One of the biggest ones is that in the movie, while you get to see what a miserable excuse for a human author Peter Van Houten is, in the book you find out that the main character in his book was named for his daughter who died of cancer when she was 8. The book was an attempt reconcile himself with her death.

The book gives more backstory and insight to the main characters' motivations and thoughts, but it also has much more crude language and swearing than the movie.

Because they say it better than I do, I am including some of Plugged In Online's review. It's long, but it's worth reading. You can read the whole thing HERE


Death hangs over The Fault in Our Stars like the stars themselves, permeating every character and every interaction. And yet in the midst of mortality we see at least a sliver of something alive. Even in pain, hope can be found, we're told. Even in disappointment, meaning comes.
Loving someone, truly, through severe sickness, isn't easy. We see others fail under the pressure. But no matter what circumstances bring, Gus and Hazel care for each other throughout, often giving something of themselves in the process.
They're both heroic characters in their own ways, facing disease and circumstance with as much grace and courage as they can muster. Hazel's last few years have been something of a living sacrifice as she tries to cushion the blow of the inevitable pain that's coming for her parents. Gus wants to live a life of meaning—one filled with adventure and importance, so that when he does go, he's known and loved by millions.
There's a little merit in both of those strategies. But when Gus and Hazel get together, they get a better sense of what the beauty of life is really about. Hazel moves beyond responsibility and finds joy in her difficult life. And when she learns that, should she die, her parents won't die with her, that they're making plans for a life without her, she treats it as the best of gifts: the idea that she won't necessarily destroy everyone around her. And Gus, through Hazel, comes to understand that it's not so critical to be loved by throngs, as long as you've loved by and have changed the lives of a few. Or even just one.
Hazel finds solace while visiting the house of Anne Frank, the diary-writing Jewish girl killed in the Nazi Holocaust. "Where there is hope, there is life," we hear Anne's words playing in the background. "Think of all the beauty in everything around you. And be happy."
Unlike most teenage love stories, parents come across pretty well here. While Hazel and her folks have their moments of tension, there's no question about how much they love one another.


Hazel's support group takes place in the basement of an Episcopal church and is led by a cancer survivor who's a fervent—and, in Hazel's eyes, goofy—Christian. He sings a song that includes the words, "Christ is your friend and He'll be there to the end." And he rolls out a carpet depicting the Savior, telling participants standing on it that they're "literally in the heart of Jesus." As the story proceeds, then, the idea of literally being in the heart of Jesus, when they're literally in a church basement, is sometimes mocked.
Christianity is treated more reverentially during a funeral, wherein a priest reads Psalm 23 and people say a prayer. (Still, a much-loathed antagonist crashes the funeral and lets loose a quip about having to "fake pray.")
Both Hazel and Gus think a lot about what might come after death. Gus fears oblivion in this life while hanging on to a belief in at least some sort of afterlife, saying he wants to crash his own funeral as a ghost. Hazel's more cynical, telling Gus she doesn't believe in angels but she may believe in God, and while she'd like to believe in an afterlife she'd need more proof first. Someone suggests that her life has no meaning and her disease is a "failed experiment in mutation."


Eighteen-year-old Gus and 17-year-old Hazel are attracted to each other from the beginning. And while Hazel tries to keep him at arm's length for a while, their platonic relationship goes kablooey in Amsterdam. The two share a tender kiss in Anne Frank's house. Then they tumble into Gus' hotel room and have sex.
The scene shows Hazel and Gus taking off each other's shirts, and she undoes her bra. (We see her from the back.) They caress and kiss as they give in to their passion. Afterwards, both are seen mostly naked, with the sheet covering only the most critical body parts. And it's worth noting that much is made of Gus' previously virginal "condition" ... and that this union is seen as the perfect end to it. The couple cuddles and kisses elsewhere.
Gus' friend Isaac makes out with his girlfriend in a parking lot, and we see him kneading her (clothed) breast. Later, Isaac, who has lost both eyes to cancer, comments on the size of another girl's breasts. "I'm blind, but I'm not that blind," he says.


One very forceful f-word is used as a sexually derived insult. Also, a half-dozen s-words and a smattering of other bad words, including "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard" and "h‑‑‑." God's name is used as an expletive about 30 times, twice paired with "d‑‑n."


"Apparently, the world is not a wish-granting factory," Gus says sadly.
It's a truth we all know. Even we Christians, whom the movie portrays as fairly naive, see that all too well. We wish it was. We want our happily ever after endings. But we know that happiness on earth is fickle and fleeting.
In The Fault in Our Stars (based on John Green's best-selling young adult novel) we find, indeed, that the stars haven't been especially kind to these two lovers. They don't have the time we'd wish for them—time to get jobs and have kids, to grow up and grow old. They've been given a finite number of days together—and even those days are filled with the looming problems and anxiety that cancer inevitably brings. And whenever it seems like something wonderful might finally happen, it goes awry. Each star they cling to, including each other, has a fault inside—a scratch, a split.
But even given such faulty stars, the two find joy and fulfillment. They have each other. They're loved. They live. Yes, maybe their days are built on borrowed time, but it's better than no time, and Hazel confesses that she's "grateful for our little infinity."
"You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world," Hazel says. "but you do get to choose who hurts you." That's a strangely powerful statement, I think.
Sadly, one fault Hazel and Gus share is that they don't always make the wisest of choices. They sleep together. And they prefer to see themselves as pawns of the stars, not beloved by those stars' Creator.
This isn't an anti-Christian film, exactly—just spiritually uncertain. Nor is it saturated in sex or depravity. This isn't a bad movie, really. In many ways, it's quite good.
But here's the thing: Because it is quite good—a persuasive, emotional story with strong, positive messages about sacrifice, hard truths and true love—the bad stuff can come off as more persuasive than usual. It's harder to see a loving God yourself when the characters you grow to care about can't, or won't. It's harder to object to premarital sex while weepily watching Hazel and Gus—teens who might never get the chance to ever have sex again—get so much pleasure and fulfillment from it.
The Fault in Our Stars is, I suppose, a little like its title. For all its sparkly power, it has scratches and splits. We know immediately when a movie like Noah drifts away from its moorings. But it's hard to see a film with crystal-clear eyes when you're always dabbing them with a Kleenex.

My final thoughts are these: It's a good story which I would have enjoyed a lot more if there had been less crude and profane language. If there is one thing John Green excels at in his books it is telling a true to life story with an abundance of insight and crude language. I think it would have been more powerful if it had a stronger spiritual emphasis--hope of heaven. But it is not a Christian book. 

I would proceed with caution when reading the book or watching the movie. I wouldn't recommend it for anyway under 13 or 14 years old.

My challenge to myself and other Christian authors is to write books that are equally insightful and engaging, but which also provide spiritual guidance and insights. We need more books that weave in faith elements without cramming it down the reader's throats. A book should have an engaging story, not a thinly disguised sermon. It should offer hope to the reader and send them on a God search. Let's build up the CBA market with books that are as widely read as The Fault in Our Stars and the others I've reviewed on this blog.
Be genuine
Be real
Be connected
Write your best story

These are my thoughts. Feel free to add yours in the comment section.
Some of the fun of The Fault in Our Stars was Gus and Hazel's quotes. Who can forget:

Favorite quotes HERE

Read my other reviews
All the Bright Places
13 Reasons Why
The Hunger Games (Bryan Davis)